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NSW building inquiry targets cladding in final report

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A NSW Upper House inquiry into the state’s troubled building industry has made 22 recommendations in its final report, including 11 that outline how the Government should handle the flammable cladding crisis.

The report by the Public Accountability Committee also calls on the Berejiklian Government to grant the Building Commissioner new powers to address the “alarming problems” plaguing the industry.

It also wants the Government to work closely with the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) to develop appropriate risk products for the building industry before pushing ahead with its Design and Building Practitioners Bill.

“In the absence of an insurance product, the objectives of this bill cannot be met,” the report says, criticising Better Regulation Minister Kevin Anderson for insisting the insurance market is “operating as normal”.

“This is clearly not the case, given insurance companies are refusing to provide professional indemnity insurance to certifiers due to the lack of confidence in the building and construction industry.”

ICA has previously warned in a submission that the draft bill in its current form may not ease the insurance crunch facing the building industry and has asked for more clarity.

But the Association of Accredited Certifiers on Friday urged the Government to put up the bill for debate this week in Parliament.

“The bill is the first step in addressing this lack of accountability and improving confidence in the entire system,” CEO Jill Brookfield said. “The Design and Building Practitioners Bill 2019 provides an important framework for improving accountability amongst building practitioners in NSW.

“For too long there has been a lack of accountability in the construction industry, which has hurt consumers and dragged down the industry as a whole.”

Building industry regulation expert Bronwyn Weir says the final report’s cladding-related recommendations, including the creation of a remediation package similar to the $600 million program announced in Victoria last year, are a step in the right direction.

“Most of them are very sensible and it is clear that the committee favours the approach taken by Victoria,” Ms Weir told insuranceNEWS.com.au. “I also believe the Victorian approach is comprehensive and have supported government funding for rectification for some time.

“Even if rectification funding cannot be given, it is very important that owners have assistance from government through the rectification process so that it is done once and done properly.”

She also backs the move to expand the powers of Building Commissioner David Chandler, saying it would enable him to “have an immediate impact on lifting the standard of apartment buildings.”

Click here for the final report.